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The Difference Between Training & Competition

Training is where you build on the basics, bulletproof your weak links and get fitter. It’s submaximal movements carried out with purpose. It’s sticking to the recommended percentages and focusing your energy on moving as well as possible. It’s hitting depth on your squats and thrusters, following the tempos and always keeping the movements pretty.

In training, you should always be asking yourself, “How can I move better right now?”

Why? Because if you cut corners in training, you’re just getting better at moving poorly. Training isn’t really about the numbers on the board or beating [insert name here]. The numbers matter, because the whiteboard and clock make CrossFit fun! The numbers matter, but not at the expense of physical adaptation (AKA getting fitter).

If training is all about getting better, competing is all about winning.

In competition, you can cut depth and move like a pile of junk as long as the reps count. All that matters is your score. And while you will get exercise at FrostFit or throughout the Open, you will also increase your odds of injury and reinforce poor movement patterns.

Competing is fun, it’s motivating and a huge part of the appeal of CrossFit. I I love finding out what I’m capable of and where my fitness ranks against people around the world. I love trying to keep pace with someone a little fitter than me. I LOVE the CrossFit Open (it’s the Christmas of CrossFit for me) and all the other reasons for us to come together as a community.

That being said, competition serves as a test and expression of your fitness – not a way to safely and effectively build it. You can show up and compete every day, but I would recommend shifting your mental equilibrium towards the training mindset. Leave the competition mindset for competitions and the odd benchmark or testing day.

Why? As the saying goes, you’ll compete yourself out of shape. If the numbers matter more than the quality and safety of your movement, you’re going in the opposite direction of virtuosity and lifelong fitness. You’ll quickly find yourself run down and burnout is a definite possibility.

So what does this mean in practice? I’m not talking about sandbagging workouts. And I’m not talking about ditching CrossFit for speed walking.

Yes, move with speed and intensity, just make sure that you’re also moving with intent. Judge yourself by the effort you put in and your quality of movement, not where you rank against the person next to you. Focus on doing the work that will make you better tomorrow, not better than the person standing next to you today.

CrossFit is about functional fitness and long-term health. Your real competition is the hands of time and chronic disease. Your real opponent is aging and decrepitude. If you’re competing every day, you may not be leaving the gym better than when you arrived.

Even more importantly, you might burn out long before the 2028 CrossFit Open… which would be a huge shame because I’m planning on crushing that one.


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